Saami in Russia

Russia’s Saami mainly live in the Kola Peninsula. The Saami varieties spoken in Russia are Kildin Saami, Ter Saami and Skolt Saami. There are a total of 1,800 ethnic Saami in Russia.

Most of Russia’s Saami are speakers of Kildin Saami, totalling around 350 people. A literary language was created for Kildin Saami in the 1930s, but its use was marginal at that point. The development of literary Kildin Saami was restarted in the 1970s, and the language is now written using the Cyrillic alphabet. The written use of Kildin Saami is, however, rather limited, the language has major internal dialectal differences, and the language is no longer transmitted to new generations.

There are around 20 speakers of Ter Saami, and the language only exists in the spoken form and not at all in the written form.

Skolt Saami, which is also spoken in Finland, only has a few dozen speakers in Russia.

Akkala Saami also used to be spoken in Russia. Akkala Saami belonged to the Eastern Saami branch and is, according to some classifications, a dialect of Kildin Saami. The language had fewer than ten speakers in the 1990s. The last known speaker of Akkala Saami was Maria Sergina, who passed away in 2003. The ways in which the language still lives on include preserved songs performed at cultural events. There are still around 100 ethnic Akkala Saami alive.

Akkala Saami Maria Sergina was the last native speaker of Akkala Saami.
Photo: Kaleva / Aku Ahlholm.